The Federal German Court of Justice, Bundesgerichtshof, has not proclaimed a final verdict in the long-lasting dispute regarding the question whether cable operators are entitled to claim carriage fees from the public broadcasters.

The judges instead lifted the previous courts’ decisions on the matter and referred the case back to the appeal courts for new hearings.

German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF cancelled their contracts with the large cable operators which included the carriage payment clause effective December 31, 2012. Kabel Deutschland and Unitymedia challenged this in court without success.

The appeal courts in Munich and Stuttgart will now have to evaluate whether the cancellation of the carriage contracts has been valid. If this is the case, the judges have to decide whether ARD and ZDF are obliged to pay for carriage or not.

The public broadcasters have been paying a total of almost €60 million per year for carriage until the end of 2012 – for historic reasons, however, only to the large cable operators. Smaller cable companies, IPTV platform operators and internet TV providers distribute the channels without receiving carriage fees.

The distribution of the public broadcasters’ main channels is compulsory by German media law (must carry rule). In dispute is the question whether ARD and ZDF are obliged to pay for the retransmission.